Day 27 Mullan, Idaho to Missoula, Montana: It's All Good - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

May 27, 2011

Day 27 Mullan, Idaho to Missoula, Montana: It's All Good

This morning came up cloudy but with no rain. The plan remained to take a lift to the top of Lookout Pass with our wonderful Mullan hosts the Johansens.

Bikes loaded for the Pass.
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We loaded the bikes onto an open trailer behind the four wheel drive Chevrolet Suburban, but before leaving Harley lead us over to see something special. It was an early birthday present for Nancy, that he had picked up after much searching. He found it in California, on Craigslist. The present was a probably 60's vintage Motobecane Mixte style bike.

Birthday bike.
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The birthday girl tries out her present.
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Vintage elegance.
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Many original parts.
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In our view, and no doubt the Johansens agree, the 60's and 70's were golden years for elegant bicycles. This Motobecane was not 100% original, but Nancy loved it nonetheless. It will be put into service on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, of course.

Probably stimulated by the Motobecane, we continued to muse about bicycles, and conversation wandered to the wheels on the Burley tandem. They had been redone by Mike Domy, owner of the Excelsior Cycle and Sport Shop in Kellogg and now had ... how many? ... spokes? Let's go count. Ah, 48. So how does that compare to Dodie's wheel? Let go count! Ping, ping, ping, ping, thunk! Oh no, another broken spoke, and this after the expert repair and truing from T Jay in Moscow.

So that's how the lift to the top of the Pass became an ambulance ride into Missoula. Kind of disappointing, but better than being out on the highway with a mangled wheel.

Look, another broken spoke!
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Bike ambulance.
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We all piled in and headed off. The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, great as it is, is only part of a circuit of trails in the Silver Valley, and the next jewel in the crown is the Route of the Hiawatha. This Trail begins below the Pass at exit 5 (Taft) on the I-90 and starts off with a mile long tunnel through the mountain.

Bikes look sceptically at snow on the Pass.
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The trail from the summit down to the Hiawatha trailhead at Taft. - not!
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I, of course, had to see this, if only to look longingly at the start of a trail that I would have no chance of travelling for probably a year. Harley too was complicit in this, being as much (or more) Crazyguy as us. Now, it's not as if the Trail departs from the interstate. There is a matter of a 2 mile long mountain dirt road up to the tunnel. So we and our bike trailer dragging Suburban headed up.

1/2 mile up we encountered snow on the road. But we're tough, right? We carried on. 3/4 mile up we encountered 2 foot deep snow. We're not that tough! Only thing, here we were on the narrow road, with a trailer behind.

Harley, started to back the rig down, and he is a good trailer jockey. But backing a trailer far down a soggy mountain road is really not on. (Did I mention that it was now pouring?) Looking back past the back seat and out at the trailer, I noticed Nancy and Dodie holding Peder's hands. I assumed that since he was the "kid", they were comforting him. No such thing, both Dodie and Nancy were terrified. Peder, however, styles himself the squeeze tool. He was unperturbed.

There was however reason to be perturbed. The sodden road was actually getting ready in spots to fall away into the gully. Room to turn around was really not there.

So the "rats" left the ship - no use having everybody roll into the ravine. Then we disconnected the trailer and edged the Suburban down past it. The clearance was 1/8 ", honestly. When the Surburban was down a bit further, Harley turned it around with much backing and forthing and crew members calling the distances to the abyss. We then reconnected the trailer and escaped down the mountain.

"Just" 3.2 km to the tunnel.
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Snow, not so bad.
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Rain, not so bad.
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Anxiety at the final roadblock.
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The crack in the road.
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The rats prepare to eject.
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Note the crack just to the left of the Suburban.
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This bike stuff sure is fun!
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So, I still have never seen this mythical trailhead and tunnel. But I say, like Arnie, "I'll be back".

As we continued down the far side of the pass, we could see snatches of the Hiawatha Trail as it exists on the East side.

The Hiawatha by I-90 on the East side.
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There are plans afoot to refurbish and open the trail all the way East to St. Regis, a distance of 57 km. This would significantly extend the 24 km on the West side, although the West side is rife with exciting further tunnels and trestles.

The shoulder of I-90 in the near vicinity of the Pass, on the East side, was heavily broken up and gravelly. This plus the rain, heavy at times, did not make a pretty sight.

I-90, not too pleasant on the east side.
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If we had to get a lift in a truck, this was actually a good time and a good place to do it.

As we approached Missoula, the weather turned warm. The trees were in leaf, and all was peaceful. We began to wonder what our family in the town would make of our inventive tale of collapsing, snowy roads and the life or death struggle to see some darn tunnel.

But hey, Missoula - the home of Avi and Violet - was the first major target of this bike tour. And no matter by what circuitous and sometimes risky route, we had made it. Now its lilacs in bloom and laughter of children. At least for a (very) short time. As soon as we get that wheel rebuilt, we're outta here. Winnipeg. Montreal, here we come!

The team celebrates in Missoula.
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This grampie has traded his B0B for a baby trailer.
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Lilacs in bloom!
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This grampie took the babies out to eat.
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What it's all about (for now).
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Today's ride: 178 km (111 miles)
Total: 1,668 km (1,036 miles)

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